Recently, I have been listening to Howard Charing's online lectures on Plant Shamanism, and how to work with plants for personal healing and Earth healing.
It is incredibly interesting, and I am also amazed at how far technology has advanced! I am online in Maryland, and he is online in Romania, and many of the other students are from all over the world (South Africa, the UK, across the US, etc.).
In the past two lectures, I've listened to him describe how to begin relationships with plants. Most of his relationships are with plants from the Amazon, and they have wonderful healing properties. However, I am not making my way there anytime soon, and so I want to work with what's around me here in the Eastern US.
As a Druid, I am immediately drawn to trees. I have found that trees function as a "stress buster" for me; on particularly rough workweeks, I have an almost visceral need to take a walk in the woods to relax!
The Celts also had a great love of trees, so much that they based an entire language system on them! (See Ogham writings for more about the language of trees).
In listening to the most recent lecture with Chris Kilham, he mentioned something about the bio-chemical exchange that happens between plants and humans, and quickly touched on the increase of neurotransmitters in the human brain. Sadly, I've been trying to research more about it, but can't seem to find additional information (I think a personal email is in order). Essentially, there is an exchange of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide between humans and plants, and increased Oxygen is important in increasing relaxation (that's why there are countless articles on Deep Breathing techniques to reduce heart rate, anxiety, fear, etc!).
But Chris also mentioned increases in Serotonin and Dopamine, caused by chemicals released in the leaves of trees and other plants. Both of those neurotransmitters are key in increasing happiness, general well-being, reducing anxiety & depression, and stabilizing mood. In fact, these two neurotransmitters are the most directly affected by psychiatric medications (see information about SSRIs)!
Essentially, modern science is aligning with shamanism, in a wonderfully circular way. Shamans learned through their relationships with plants that many trees interact with humanity to help us feel grounded, relaxed, and comforted. As we have increased our stress & reduced our interaction with nature, we've missed out on the benefits of sitting with trees.
Many of us have watched the news, and learned that prescription medications for anxiety and stress are at an all-time high, and that many parents and schools are trying to introduce "nature therapy", because of the worry that kids are more stressed out, anxious, and fearful than in previous decades. Science is trying to help us increase our serotonin and dopamine via medications, which is extremely beneficial to those with diagnosed mental disorders.
But why not add a "prescription" for a weekly walk in the woods? In discovering relationships with Trees, I have learned that they want to help humanity live better. Apple trees are especially fond of us, and their fruit is healing in countless ways (there's a reason for the old axiom, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away!").
How many of you think you might add a "Prescription for Nature?"
Note: For those of you who haven't already read my disclaimer, I am a firm believer in the complementary methods of shamanism with traditional medicine, NOT as a replacement for it. DO NOT read this article and replace needed medications with Nature Walks!
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